In Their Siblings Voices

For some time I have admired Rhonda Roorda from afar as documented in this post. She speaks and writes in a way that is thoughtful and truthful and her honesty is refreshing. So it was with joy that I finally picked up and devoured her book In Their Siblings’ Voices. In Their Siblings’ Voices is Rita J. Simon’s and Rhonda Roorda’s final installment in their fascinating trilogy, preceded by In Their Own Voices and In Their Parents’ Voices. These books document first person accounts of belonging to a Blended family from every perspective available. In reading  In Their Siblings’ Voices: White Non-Adopted Siblings Talk About Their Experiences Being Raised with Black and Biracial Brothers and Sisters, I was struck that for many of the siblings interviewed this was perhaps the first time they had ever been asked formally about their thoughts on transracial adoption. Roorda calls the birth siblings, or non-adopted white siblings of transracial adoptees, “the silent voice” for this reason. Not having chosen to have a multiracial family, but rather given one, many have never encountered the opportunity to speak about their feelings and opinions on growing up with black or biracial siblings. For that reason alone, I found the diversity of experiences and opinions fascinating. We as Blended families owe it to ourselves to read In Their Siblings’ Voices.

Simon and Roorda begin with the arguments for and against transracial adoption and do not hold back the historical punches. The relevance of the history of transracial adoption is key in understanding today’s perception and approval (or disapproval as it may be) within the non-white community. The authors did a great service in documenting both sides of the argument before they progressed into the siblings’ stories.

I have blogged recently about preparing my middle birth child to enter the same school with her older sister who is transracially adopted. For the first time she will have to answer questions about her family on her own two feet and with her own voice. I have been interested about what she has perceived over the years from her sister’s experience – hurdles and all. It was during this time, and also when my daughter was dealing with an in-school racial incident, that I begin to ask her questions about what she understands about race and how our family might be perceived from a stranger’s perspective. To my surprise she could articulate most of what I asked her, obviously in five year old language and perspective – but for the most part I realized that she by osmosis and family discussion has landed solidly on her feet ready for any of the questions I thought to ask.

But Roorda’s book pushed me further, especially during the aftermath of the school incident, to help her put language to what her sister was dealing with. To sort out how she, as a birth sibling, can respond appropriately to the situation. (I stress appropriately because my five year old struggled with anger toward the perpetrator and I think to some degree would have squared off for a fight if given the chance.) I was surprised that many of the birth siblings interviewed in the book had little to no understanding or knowledge of the difficulties faced racially for the adopted brothers and sisters of color. Motivated by that information, I was able to help my five-year-old process more adeptly, hoping to create within her an advocates heart. It was affirming to read that for most of the birth siblings interviewed in the book, they relay that they are comfortable in diverse situations and are advocates for people of color largely because they grew up in a family that was diverse.

As fascinating as the stories are to read, Blended families are helped by the triumphs and pitfalls of those who have gone before us. We must listen to these siblings’ voices, so well documented, and learn from them so we may do better with each of our children. We as Blended parents often spend so much time and energy preparing our transracially adopted children for life’s journey, let us not forget to process with and prepare our birth children on those same issues of race and ethnicity. May they be in the future much louder voices of advocacy and compassion than in the past.

If you would like to add In Their Siblings’ Voices to your personal library, click here.